Doing well on the MCAT probably holds back more "pre-meds" from getting into medical school than any other single part of the application. In 2012, the MCAT was taken by 89,452 hopeful future medical school students. The average score...25.2. The average medical school matriculant on the other hand, scored 6 points higher, with an average score of 31.2! Each year this average increases just a bit; I can't even imagine what it will be ten years from now. The truth is, to have a good chance at getting into medical school you are going to have to score a 30 or better on the MCAT. I know there are exceptions but I wouldn't feel comfortable applying without a 30+ (and I took the test exactly 2 years ago today!). But enough with all this "tough-love," because the good thing is that beating the MCAT isn't just possible, it's probable. I should probably step back and clarify that last statement. It is "probable" if you use the right MCAT prep materials, dedicate enough time to studying, take lots of practice tests, and have decent reading comprehension skills. Not too bad, right? Most people don't study enough, or "study" by going to the library with a friend and flipping through a couple of random MCAT prep books. That doesn't count. I am talking hours of intense, dedicated, active reading and studying. It is a lot of work, but there are a ton of resources to aid you in your quest.
I want to add a little sidenote before I start recommending MCAT prep materials. To be honest, this post began as a "rant" against enrolling in dedicated MCAT Preparation Courses. I think that the majority of students can tackle the MCAT more efficiently, and a lot more affordably than MCAT courses. All of the material on the MCAT should've been taught to you in your undergrad science prerequisites. If you don't believe me, then follow this link to the content outlines for all of the MCAT subsections. The Association of American Medical Colleges tells you exactly what is on the test.
Kaplan charges $2,299 dollars for test-prep material which are mostly online (this includes diagnostic and practice tests), and 36-hours of classroom sessions. ExamKrackers on the other hand, comes in at $3,400 for a bunch of test-prep material, and 27-hours of classroom time. I don't know about you, but that is a ton of money for my budget. Not to mention that just registering for the MCAT will cost you $270!
My point is that a lot of students don't have this kind of money, and a ton of people don't learn well in a classroom/lecture setting. If you can stay focused in the library, stick to a schedule, like working at your own pace, and are a self-motivater, than a $2,000+ prep course probably isn't for you. A lot of my friends and classmates in college just assumed they needed the course and never broke 30. I studied on my own and scored a 37, which put me in the 98th percentile for all test takers. It is a personal decision, and with the right teacher and MCAT class can be great.
Anyways, without further ado, here are the MCAT prep materials I recommend using:
ExamKrackers Complete MCAT Study Package - I think this is the best content review out there. If you feel fairly strong about your science background, this is your best bet. If you are lacking in the sciences, than you probably should look into supplementing your content review with one of the following.
Also check out my Anki MCAT flashcards. They are cheap, and contain over 600 vocabulary words to further ingrain knowledge into your brains for the test.
ExamKrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning - My favorite MCAT prep book. These 14 practice exams are clutch for improving your verbal reasoning score. If you haven't used this book before taking the test, you are doing yourself a disservice.
The best practice tests are the ones you can buy directly from the AAMC. They are easy to buy, and should be saved for very last in your content review for the MCAT.
Gold Standard offers 10 practice tests for $150 dollars. I have written about these before, they are tough but really good practice for the real deal. I thought they really helped me raise my score a few points at the very end of my study period.
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